Although they are on a different continent, Libya and Sudan are feeling the effects of the war in Ukraine, and so are the private military contractors who are deployed in these countries.
Libyan Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha said Russia’s invasion was “a clear violation of international law and the sovereignty of a democratic Ukraine.” Putin and Bashagha have a complicated relationship. Initially, Russia curried favor with Bashagha. More recently, however, the relationship has chilled. As a result, Libya is not sure which way to turn. In Sudan, the government refused to condemn Russia’s invasion, but ties with Russia have little popular support. So, the same dichotomy exists.
As the Ukraine war drags on, Russia is unlikely to abandon or downsize its ambitions in Libya and Sudan. Its long-term influence in both countries, however, depends on opportunistic aspiring autocrats. Thus, Moscow would lose out if either nation takes a definitive step toward democracy.
The 2011 Arab Spring protests which destabilized several governments hit Libya like a ton of bricks. Longtime strongman Muhammar Gaddafi struggled to hold onto power in the face of an intense rebellion. After pro-Gaddafi forces lowered the hammer on Benghazi, the center of the rebel movement, the United Nations expelled Libya.
The UN Security Council authorized military action in March 2011. Over the next several months, NATO aircraft, mostly Americans, flew about 15,000 missions over Libya. The massive air support helped rebels break out of Benghazi and overthrow Gaddafi. About 30,000 Libyans died during the brief but brutal civil war.
After Gaddafi’s removal, several groups claimed power. Isalmic State militants took advantage of the chaos and attacked pretty much everyone. All the major participants signed a cease-fire agreement in October 2020. However, stability remains elusive. Promised presidential elections still have not happened, and unrest continues in the country’s vital oil industry.
The fragile Libyan government cannot afford to take a strong stance on any controversial issue, especially one involving Russia, which is a traditional ally. American private military contractors in Libya are already hard-pressed to protect American interests. Additional instability could mean additional military force, which no one in the United States wants to endorse.
This mostly-Muslim African country went through basically the same thing as Libya, albeit along a slightly different timeline.
General Omar al-Bashir, who took power in 1989, survived the aforementioned Arab Spring movement. But he did not survive a 2018 economic crisis. An ill-timed government decision to triple the price of many goods led to massive protests. Al-Bashir reacted by cracking down on opposition leaders. Additionally, government forces killed 100 demonstrators in Khartoum. Under immense pressure, al-Bashir eventually did the right thing and left office. Several years later, he was tried and convicted on several corruption charges.
After al-Bashir left, things were looking up under civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The 61-year-old economist negotiated with the World Bank and IMF, encouraged foreign investment from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and appointed a Christian female as secretary of state.
But the good times did not last, just like they did not last in Libya after Gadaffi’s ouster. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan removed Hamdok in October 2021 and declared a state of emergency. Hamdok later resumed his position, but he was an al-Burhan puppet. Hamdok later resigned as violent protests against the coup escalated, and the military junta responded even more violently.
Rebuilding Sudan is in a precarious place as well. Russia is willing to reach out to troubled countries like Sudan who are internationally isolated. Also, Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries are available to provide muscle.
To continue with this analogy, mercenaries like the Wagner Group provide muscle, and American private military contractors provide skeletal support. Fledgling proto-democracies like Sudan and Libya need all the skeletal support they can get.
A lot of training and planning goes into every military operation. Contractors play vital roles in these areas.
Basic military instruction, especially in places like Sudan and Libya, usually consists of weapons handling and other basic skills. Soldiers are taught to follow orders, not show initiative. These qualities make soldiers well-disciplined, and that is a big part of a successful operation. However, it is often not enough, when facing off against terrorists and other enemies who often do not play by the rules.
So, contractors train soldiers in anti-insurgency tactics. Additionally, contractors show soldiers how to walk the line between following orders and thinking independently.
After proper training, it is time for action. Hard charges against fixed positions do not work anymore. That is especially true in anti-insurgencies, when the opponent uses a vastly different playbook. Contractors with experience in this area know what combat tactics work, and perhaps more importantly, what tactics do not work.
American law prohibits American contractors from participating in offensive operations. But it does not prevent them from defending themselves, and the assets they protect.
Many government security forces see guard duty and recon duty as punishments. But private military contractors willingly embrace these roles. When contractors serve in these capacities, more assets are available for offensive operations. As a result, everyone gets to go home sooner.
Injury Compensation Available
Overseas construction contractors risk trauma injuries and occupational diseases. The Defense Base Act pays reasonably necessary medical bills in both situations.
Falls are the most common construction trauma injuries. Most countries do not have strict workplace safety laws. Even if they do, inspectors are usually not interested in the occupational safety of American contractors. Therefore, such trauma injuries are especially common in dangerous foreign workplaces.
Making matters worse, many war zones only have rudimentary medical facilities. For the best possible care after a serious injury, victims must be med-evacced, often to a hospital on a different continent. So, by the times these victims get effective treatment, their conditions have deteriorated.
As for occupational diseases, repetitive stress injuries usually top this category. Most construction workers spend considerable time bending, kneeling, stooping, and so on. That is especially true for the speciality construction contractors, like electricians, who dominate foreign worksites.
Most people do not run to the doctor the moment their backs or elbows hurt. Once again, as in the case of a trauma injury, their conditions deteriorate and become harder to treat.
The Defense Base Act provides maximum compensation in these situations. Even if the victim did not see a doctor straightaway or a pre-existing condition contributed to the illness or injury, the DBA usually still pays benefits. These benefits include emergency care, follow-up care, medical devices, transportation, prescription drugs, physical therapy, and all other reasonably necessary costs.
The “reasonably necessary” requirement is often controversial. Extended physical therapy is a good example. Many injury victims, especially brain injury victims, benefit greatly from extended physical therapy. But if progress temporarily tapers off, many insurance companies try to pull the financial plug. Attorneys advocate for victims in these situations, so the money keeps flowing.
For more information about DBA eligibility, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.